Purpose of review: Hookworm infection remains a major health burden in developing countries. Successful control will likely be achieved through continued advances in our understanding of the epidemiology, molecular biology and immunopathogenesis of hookworm infection. This review summarizes recent advances in each of these fields, and discusses ongoing efforts to develop vaccines against hookworm anemia and growth delay.
Recent developments: Revised estimates indicate that hookworms afflict over 700 million persons in tropical and subtropical regions. Prevalence and intensity often vary considerably at both the regional and local levels, and may be influenced by climate, soil composition, education, and socioeconomic status. Immunoepidemiological studies suggest that hookworm infection likely induces a complex mixture of host-protective and pathological immune responses. There has been substantial progress in elucidating the molecular pathogenesis of hookworm disease, primarily through the identification of a number of parasite virulence factors. Mass chemotherapy remains a mainstay of hookworm control strategies although continued use of benzimidazole anthelminthics is perhaps contributing to the development of anthelminthic resistance. Consequently, there remains a need for innovative approaches, including the development of vaccines and new chemotherapeutic agents, in order to provide effective global control of hookworm disease.
Summary: Hookworm infection and disease is a significant threat to global health. Recent advances, particularly those at the molecular level, have provided a wealth of opportunities to better understand pathogenesis. This will likely allow for the development of novel measures such as vaccines to complement existing control methods.